This month census takers are to drop off invitations to respond and paper questionnaires at the front doors of five million households stateside while updating the addresses. This is to occur June 13–July 9, according to recent COVID-19 operational adjustments.
People who have not filed the form and who would prefer not to have census takers come to their door --- especially in these uncertain times with the coronavirus pandemic --- can go to 2020census.gov to fill it out, call the Census Bureau at 1-844-330-2020 or return by mail an official response as soon as possible.
Census takers are being specially trained to observe social-distancing protocols. For their safety and the safety of the public, the Census Bureau has ordered personal protective equipment for all field staff, including those who work in a field office, officials said.
“The health and safety of Census Bureau staff and the public is of the utmost importance,” Cathy Lacy, director of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Denver Regional Office, which Arizona belongs to, said. “All in-person census activities will always incorporate the most current guidance from authorities to ensure everyone’s health and safety. However, we encourage everyone to self-respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone or by mail as it has never been easier to respond without having to come in contact with a census taker,” she said.
Arizona census takers were unavailable for comment as they are not authorized to give media interviews, Nuvia Enriquez, media specialist for the Dallas Regional Census Office, said.
Just over one-half of all Arizona residents have filed their 2020 Census forms.
As of June 7, 57.1% of Arizonans have self-responded, compared to 60.7% nationally, according to the U.S. Census.
The lowest-response cities by the same date in the Phoenix metropolitan area are Apache Junction, 50.2%; Buckeye, 58.4%; and Glendale, 58.7%.
Of the state’s 15 counties, one has made a top-20 list of an undercount impact model developed by Fair Census Project and Civis Analytics.
Maricopa County will have the second greatest unfair impact of 20 key U.S. counties when determining federal funding and congressional apportionment, Civis Analytics, a national consultancy and software company that helps government, agencies, nonprofits and businesses with data analytics, has determined.
“Should historical trends apply, our model indicates that without significant intervention, more than 70,000 Maricopa (County) residents will likely be miscounted, making the miscounted’s share of the state’s loss of federal funding $13.2 million,” according to the undercount impact model.
It is the only Arizona county listed in the top 20; other states represented are Florida, Texas, Nevada and New York.
“We effectively are weighting both the federal-funding effect as well as the apportionment effect of seats on Congress,” Jonathan Williams, a project manager at Civis Analytics, said in an interview.
“Our model looks at, essentially, how close each state is towards tipping points or thresholds for apportionment in Congress as well as the amount of federal funds received. Some states are more sensitive to this than others,” he said.
After determining which states, they looked for counties that contained the highest populations of what they anticipate will be uncounted residents, he said.
The model “examines where in the country we expect the most people to not be counted by the census and the highest-leverage tracts or counties or states would be,” Mr. Williams said.
Communities of color, children under 5, households with poor Internet access and recent immigrants are examples of historically undercounted communities, according to the undercount impact model.
“It’s tempting to break up the world into these broad buckets of race and ethnicity, but it’s pretty fractured and complex even within any given bucket,” Mr. Williams said.
“Black and Hispanic populations, for example, are more likely to be renters than homeowners in some ways --- or at least within some states and some communities. They’re more likely to live within cities instead of the suburbs in some places,” he said.
“That said, I do think that the attitudes toward the government are playing a factor as well. I just don’t know how to weigh all of the possible causes,” he said.
Children from newborns to age 4 are not counted for a variety of reasons, he said.
“What happens is that usually parents --- for a variety of reasons --- may elect not to report children under 5,” Mr. Williams said.
“In some cases, some parents may feel that they just would prefer that the federal government not necessarily have a record of their young child for one reason or another. In other cases, it’s actually unclear to the parent; they may have a newborn child and that child may still be in the hospital and when someone comes around the house to ask who is in the household, that child goes uncounted,” he said.
Residents filling out their own census form will likely provide the most-accurate count of the U.S., Mr. Williams said.
“This self-response is very important because past censuses have shown that the self-response generates the highest-quality, most-accurate information. In general, when people feel motivated to respond to the census at all, by themselves, they respond fully and accurately and completely and it reduces the burden on the Census Bureau itself during the next phase, which is often called NRFU, or nonresponse follow-up,” he said.
The nonresponse follow-up operation determines housing-unit status for non-responding addresses and enumerates housing units for which a 2020 Census response was not received. It also allows field verification of addresses from respondents using self-response who did not contain a census ID and that were not on a master address file, according to the U.S. Census.
“It’s not necessarily that the NRFU enumerators are bad at collecting census information --- they’re professionals, they’re trained, they’re good at this --- but, on the other hand, there’s a finite amount of resources. The Census Bureau has only so many people and so many dollars or budget to spend in sending enumerators around to every household which they believe has not responded,” Mr. Williams said.
“It’s also the case that the Census Bureau is not 100% accurate on where everybody is, or else there wouldn’t be a need to conduct the census in the first place, and so the nonresponse followup is at danger of missing some people, particularly ... renters, those who move around a lot or those currently experiencing homelessness, who would be very difficult for the nonresponse followup enumerators to find,” he said.
And there’s the health aspect --- putting census takers at-risk when they are tasked with going door-to-door to gather information, and also requiring people to respond at their homes.
“In this kind of uncertain and sometimes scary times, it may be that more people don’t wish to open their door to a stranger, don’t wish to have a conversation at the doorstep,” Mr. Williams said.
“I also imagine there may be concerns within the workforce chosen to be census enumerators, that the work involved might put them at higher risk, so people who had previously volunteered may elect not to,” he said.
“I understand in past censuses these enumerators have often been from people who have an easier time sort of dedicating a few hours of their day and have a strong compunction toward civic duty, which often skews toward the same older population within the U.S. that would, perhaps, be most at-risk to the coronavirus,” Mr. Williams said. “Self-response is always the best option, but this census cycle, it may be more important than ever.”